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Healthy Boundaries

Healthy Boundaries October 27, 2014

Richard Beck describes love as the overcoming of boundaries, and in defending that description deals with the concern of psychologists for establishing “healthy boundaries” (Unclean, 129-30).

Drawing on Charles Taylor’s analysis of the modern self, he argues: “Modernity can talk about ‘healthy relationships’ and make numerous recommendations about how we ought to manage life across the boundaries of selfhood, about whether we should accept or reject the claims upon the self from other buffered selves. Modernity will, thus, use economic metaphors to help us track the ‘inflow’ versus the ‘outflow’ across the boundary of the self. Healthy love in modernity is making sure our ‘love bank’ gets enough ‘deposits’ to offset the relational ‘investments’ we make in others.”

It’s an understatement when he adds, “it is very difficult to see how this modern version of ‘love’—exchange across the boundaries of autonomous egos—bears any resemblance to the triune love of God and Christian agape.” The buffered self is incurvatus in se, and psychology has, wittingly or not, merely reinforced that curvature. 

It’s a striking indictment of psychology. Psychology provides management of selves that have lost the capacity for love and intimacy. Psychology helps buffered selves stay safely buffered; it helps contracted consumerist souls manage their contact with others souls. Psychology as an outpost of capitalist formation.


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